Craigslist Founder: Most Online Outrage is Faked For Profit

The Guardian profiles 66-year-old Craigslist founder (and former IBM programmer) Craig Newmark, calling him “a survivor from the era of internet optimism.”

He’s now investing “significant sums” to protect the future of the news industry — “and rejects the idea his website helped cause journalism’s financial crisis”
[H]e firmly rejects any notion that all the philanthropy — an estimated $50m in the past year including to New York Public Radio, new publication the Markup and local journalism efforts such as the American Journalism Project — is an attempt to assuage guilt, a reach for atonement. “That takes an active imagination that I don’t understand. I have very little imagination….”

Newmark, by his own admission not a journalist, says: “I had great hopes for citizen journalism 10, 15 years ago. It hasn’t worked out. One reason is that journalism is a profession. You have to know how to write well. You have to fact-check. You have to know how to develop sources, often over years. You have to have specialised knowledge on a beat like disinformation or crime or birds. Citizen journalists can complement what’s going on and, sometimes, citizens come to journalism with skills… Now I think more: what are the practical problems of professional journalism? For example, we’ve seen a couple of cases where bad actors will try to really hurt a publication by engaging in lengthy, frivolous lawsuits. There is a great need for shared risk pool insurance, media insurance in the US, and I talk to people about that….”

Social media fights, he insists, get attention but are not representative of what is really going on. Much of it is manufactured. “Americans are much more reasonable and moderate than what you might guess when you see a little Twitter war. But I’m guessing that the purpose of many Twitter wars is to polarise people and, in fact, we’ve seen that happen because you can often trace some of the fighting groups to the same location. Outrage is profitable. Most of the outrage I’ve seen in the online world — I would guess 80% — someone’s faking it for profit…”

Indeed, he remains convinced that the internet is still a positive for humanity. “It allows people of goodwill to get together and work together for common good….”

The Guardian notes that during their interview, Craig also “cheerfully admits he is ‘simulating’ social skills.”

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